Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Growing Software

Full disclaimer before I write about Louis Testa's book Growing Software. I rarely read IT management books and am almost always underwhelmed by the management-speak that goes for advise on the subject any time that I do. It seems that the authors who dispense wisdom either do not inhabit the real world or believe they have a magic potion which would automagically right all that ails it.

I like Testa's book for a couple reasons. First, he acknowledges that IT organizations can be fundamentally flawed and dysfunctional. What is more he does not pretend he knows how to cure it. Second, he cites several real-life examples of the said dysfunctionality throughout the book and suggests commonsense ways to work around them.

Whereas a Seth Godin might recommend that you fire that one IT superhero who is the data and information black hole in the company, Testa would take a less extreme measure and suggest ways to wheedle some of the precious knowledge from this person. While we may be in complete agreement with Godin's remedy , we might find more use for Testa's advise simply because making the best call is often not an option in most organizations.

I also like it that he devotes and entire chapter to release management - something that is not considered nearly as glamorous as product development in most shops. If there was only one thing I could take away from the book, it would be the excellent Venn diagram on page 100 which shows the intersection of product perception by the three entities that determine its ultimate failure or success - Customer, Sales & Marketing and Engineering. He offers a terrific explanation of what lies at the intersection of these sets and why it is important to understand each of them well.

In summary, there is a lot of good material in the book that will appeal to a fairly diverse audience.

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